Photo: Richey Miller, clearchoicephoto.com
There is much to admire about the Fayetteville Bulldogs this season.
The Bulldogs boast a big-play, high-scoring offense that has also proven it can move the ball on the ground despite injuries.
Likewise, Fayetteville’s defense is greedy and opportunistic, with a knack for coming up with a big play at just the right time.
Those two units are complemented by strong special teams play. The Bulldogs have returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns this season, place kicker Cal Conway has made all six of his field goals, and he and Jon Fagg have combined to make all 32 of their extra points.
Mitch Marshall, C.J. O’Grady and Fagg have been effective punting with a combined average of 37 yards per punt. That average would likely be more, but the Bulldogs specialize in pooch punting and downing the ball inside the 10.
The Bulldogs are a well-coached, high-functioning football team that has improved week by week. Fayetteville is not a dominating football team on either side of the football, but they do a great job of maximizing their opportunities and making opponents regret their mistakes.
Sum all that up, and the Bulldogs remain undefeated with three games left in the regular season. It’s the first time Fayetteville has moved to 7-0 since 2003 when the Bulldogs opened the season 9-0 in Daryl Patton’s first season as head coach.
For Bulldog fans, this is no doubt a fun team to watch. Quarterback Mitch Marshall is truly fashioning a fantastic season. He’s completed 61 percent of his passes (97 of 159) for 1,717 yards and 19 touchdowns with only one interception.
Fayetteville (7-0, 4-0) at Siloam Springs (1-5-, 0-4)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25
Location: Glenn W. Black Stadium, Siloam Springs
Of course quarterback is a collaborative position. It takes solid protection from lineman and backs to allow him time to do his job, and for the most part a gaggle of first-year starters have performed like veterans for the Bulldogs this season.
And of course, the receivers have to do their jobs, too, and Marshall works with a gifted group. Senior Jordan Dennis (31 catches for 529 yards and 7 touchdowns) and junior C.J. O’Grady (26 receptions for 528 yards and 9 TDs) will likely play on Saturdays when they complete their prep careers, but Jase Rapert, Ramsey Jones, running back Brayden Cook and Bruce Armstrong all execute and make catches when their numbers are called.
Cook is a warrior for Fayetteville at tailback. He’s battled a knee injury all season, but he just keeps producing, helping the Bulldogs move the chains and remain balanced on offense.
Defensively, if there is a more impactful player in the state than safety Dre Greenlaw, I’d like to see him play. The junior is a magnet for the football, and when he makes an interception or recovers a fumble he knows the way to the end zone.
Most high schools in the state would play Greenlaw on both sides of the football. It’s a testament to Fayetteville’s talent and depth as well as the wisdom of Bulldogs’ coaching that he doesn’t. The young man is a dynamo, and his talent explodes on defense and special teams. Playing him more downs on offense might create diminishing returns.
Damani Carter has a fast engine playing on the defensive line. Jake Hornibrook is a big hitter at cornerback and the Bulldogs’ linebacking corps is steady and solid. It’s not a dominating group, but the Bulldogs are gritty, tough and opportunistic.
Most of the summer prognostications pegged Fayetteville to finish third in the conference behind Har-Ber and Bentonville, and the Bulldogs are on target to accomplish that or better.
It just so happens that Fayetteville closes out the regular season with a trip to Jarrell Williams Stadium to face the Wildcats on Nov. 1 and by playing host to Bentonville on Nov. 8.
The Bulldogs have not played a team as good as Har-Ber yet this season. The Wildcats are led by defensive tackle Josh Frazier, who might give Greenlaw a run for his money for best defensive player in the state.
As for Bentonville, Barry Lunney’s Tigers have already whipped the Wildcats and are aiming to do the same to the Bulldogs on the regular season’s last playing date.
While Patton said earlier this year that his program wasn’t chasing a conference title this season, he certainly wouldn’t turn one down.
However, before the Bulldogs can focus their attention on the top tier of the league, there is the matter of facing Siloam Springs on the road this Friday. The Panthers are 0-4 in league play and 1-5-1 overall, but they are more dangerous than their schedule indicates.
How dangerous? Ask Har-Ber. The Wildcats had to rally from a 21-point deficit to post a 42-35 victory over the Panthers last week.
The Bulldogs are a solid team. They have proven over the course of the year to be a better team than Siloam Springs. However, if Fayetteville glances forward or relaxes just a little, their matchup could be an upset waiting to happen.
If the Bulldogs compete up to their motto, “Win this play; improve every game,” an upset shouldn’t happen.
Should the Bulldogs stand 8-0 after this week, the table will be set for two very interesting weeks of football in the 7A/6A-West.
The FHS coaching staff named C.J. O’Grady as Bulldog Player of the Week and Offensive MVP, Damani Carter as Outstanding Defensive lineman, Defensive MVP and Hammer Award recipient, Sam Threlkeld as Outstanding Offensive lineman, Bruce Armstrong as Outstanding Wide Receiver, Mitch Marshall as Outstanding Offensive Back and Outstanding Special Teamer, Seth Finley as Outstanding Linebacker, and Jake Hornibrook as Outstanding Defensive Back.
7A/6A WEST STANDINGS
Fayetteville 4-0 7-0
Bentonville 4-0 5-2
Har-Ber 3-1 5-2
Springdale 3-1 5-2
Rogers 1-3 3-4
Heritage 1-3 3-4
Siloam Springs 0-4 1-5-1
Van Buren 0-4 1-6
2013 FHS Football Schedule
Sept. 2 – Fayetteville 35, Warren 21 at Razorback Stadium
Sept. 13 – Fayetteville 34, Jeff City 24
Sept. 20 – Fayetteville 27, Muskogee 22 at Muskogee
Sept. 27 – Fayetteville 45, Van Buren 21 at Van Buren
Oct. 4 – Fayetteville 38, Springdale 14
Oct. 11 – Fayetteville 28, Heritage 27
Oct. 18 – Fayetteville 35, Rogers 14
Oct. 25 – at Siloam Springs, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 – at Har-Ber, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 – Bentonville, 7:30 p.m.